Monday, July 15, 2013

USAT Regional Qualifier: Echo Race Report

Several months ago I wrote about the USAT National Championships to be held in Milwaukee, WI in August. One of the Rocky Mountain regional qualifiers was held Saturday at the 12th annual Echo Triathlon in the town of Coalville, UT. Going into this season, racing at Nationals was a big goal of mine, and I registered for Echo with that goal in mind. Over the last few months, however, I came to the conclusion that it would be too expensive (as well as incompatible with a busy period at my day job) to pull off the trip to Nationals this year. That said, I knew the competition would be fierce relative to most local races, and it was still a goal to qualify.

This was one of the rare times in which my wife and I would be doing the same race. We stayed at my parents' place the night before (only an hour from us), and left the kids. 4:45 came early, and we were soon driving through the darkness to Echo Reservoir. I was excited to race, but was glad to have the ~40 min drive to get mentally warmed up. I asked Lindsay "on a scale from 1-10, at this moment how ready do you feel to race." Her answer was "1" and I concurred. She later asked me "before a race, what's the main thing that makes you nervous?" After some thought I said "I just always want to execute a good race. You put in all the training, and training is fun in its own way, but you want it to pay off on race day. There's also the pain element that is a bit daunting... bracing yourself for some hurt!"

We arrived, parked, and rode our bikes the short distance to the race start with bags on our back. Time was short, and we hustled through the pre-race process before walking to the reservoir. As I waded in, I was still maybe only a "5" on my race readiness scale. I had 10 minutes or so to do something about that while I warmed up, and by gun time I was ready to go.

The swim was two clockwise 750 meter loops. The start was typical... a little jostling, but nothing too bad. Echo reservoir is nice, but by the first buoy it was clear that it was extremely shallow. In the traffic jam at the first buoy, people were literally standing up! It was like a herd of sea monsters making that first turn, but things eventually spread out. Almost from the start my right shoulder felt really tight, and instead of loosening up it seemed to get progressively worse. It wasn't unbearable though, and I kept pressing on the best I could. I finally touched sand and went to stand up before completely losing my balance and flopping back into the water. There was a crowd lining the exit, and it was a little embarrassing, but oh well. You then had to run a ways and up a pretty steep trail to get to transition, and I jogged it the best I could as I worked my wetsuit down to my waist. In hindsight it was a disappointing swim, but I was able at least to make up another 20 spots or so in transition.

27:13   114/257

The bike was the appropriate Olympic distance length (40k/ ~25 miles) on an out-and-back route up beautiful Echo Canyon. There weren't any big hills, but it was a long, gradual climb to the turnaround point. Being a USAT Regional Qualifier, the marshals were out in full force looking for drafting and other infractions while speeding around on their mopeds. I stayed far away from drafting, but was able to work with a few other riders for much of the course, intermittently taking turns at the front pushing the pace. In the beginning it was unintentional, just passing then getting re-passed, but after several rounds we embraced it and had a real "team" feel out there, which was cool. There was a lot of "good job bud", "your turn", and "let's DO this!" from our small biker gang. I felt strong the whole time and was really happy with my ride.

1:08:32  40/257   22mph

A quick transition later and I was on the run, the usual 10k / 6.2 mi distance out-and-back on a dirt path known as the "Rail Trail." The weather has been blazing hot of late, but it could not have been better for the race. Storms had come through the day before, and on race morning it was overcast and cool, without much wind to speak of. I was grateful to not be running in typical summer heat, but the first half was still pretty uncomfortable. I kept an eye out for a few competitors, and by not seeing them on the way out I knew I had a lead at the turnaround. Shortly after the turn, a super-fast girl on the local scene went by me, and I dug deep to stick on her heels and let her pull me along. 

If you've followed the blog, you know that I love asking pros and elite age groupers to break down the "credit for a race gone extremely well." Almost all of them give "mental toughness" the highest or one of the highest rankings. For example, I love that Kelly Williamson gave it a full 30% of the credit. Some races I'm tougher between the ears than others, but it's something I always strive for. The phrase that kept coming to mind late in the race was "I shake hands with the pain" a line from Macca's book entitled I'm Here To Win. I was there to take 44th, but I still love that line. 

Here's the full quote:

"Pain is going to come... it's a raw reality. I hate the pain, but I love it, too. When it shows up I think, 'there you are. I was wondering when you'd get here.' It's not that I'm looking forward to suffering, but I accept it as a sign that I'm pushing myself and overcoming something. I shake hands with the pain and keep going."

I shook hands with the pain, gritted my teeth, and kicked it in, re-passing the girl who had paced me as well as a few others in the homestretch. With different wave starts two of them still beat me overall, but I'm glad I finished strong regardless.

44:52   35/257  7:11 pace

avg hr 169

Overall 2:26:15   44/257
6/26 in age group (top 33% of AG qualified)

I was really proud of Lindsay, who rocked a 2:52 in her 2nd ever Olympic distance race (on a crappy bike I must add). 

Despite a mediocre swim, I'm happy with this race. I wasn't sure how my body would respond after some time off and eating everything in sight at Lake Powell. I'm highly motivated now to go to Spudman, a big Olympic distance race in Idaho (where else would a race be called "Spudman"??) in two weeks.

Side note: Glancing at the results for the sprint distance race, the preliminary winner was served with a 2 min drafting penalty, dropping him to 3rd. He got his Man Card snipped and lost the race... not worth it bro!

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